You might have heard the term server room mentioned in networking and cloud computing discussions.
Server rooms are integral to maintaining on-premises ICT infrastructure by providing a focal point for networking and related activities. As such, businesses need to invest a lot of thought (and resources) into how the server room would be set up and maintained.
This article is all about server rooms. First, we’ll discuss the specific aspects of server room design and then go into the best practices for maintaining server rooms.
Let’s start with an introduction to the server room.
Table of Content
- Introduction of Server Room
- The Main Components in a Server Room
- The “Anatomy” of a Server Room
- In-house Server Rooms vs. Third Party Server Infrastructure
Introduction of Server Room
A server room is a dedicated compartment within a building that holds servers, data storage devices, and other important IT hardware required for computer network operation.
In most cases, this is a temperature-controlled environment that protects equipment from elements, such as temperature changes, humidity, dust, and physical damage.
Server rooms generally have a combined temperature and dust control system that maintains a constant temperature and minimizes dust in the room. Similarly, backup power sources and security measures (access control in the form of ID-based locks) make sure that the servers stay operational and data remains protected at all times.
In addition to adequate design, server rooms require ongoing administration to maintain the ICT operations of an organization.
After this brief introduction, let’s dive into the structure of a server room.
The Main Components in a Server Room
The exact inventory and equipment in a server room depend upon the organization’s ICT requirements.
However, in most cases, a typical server room contains the following equipment and components.
- Servers: These computing components are the key devices responsible for managing and controlling network and computational resources such as file sharing, email, database hosting & access, and site hosting.
- Storage Devices: These components come in a wide range of options ranging from hard disc drives (HDDs)and solid-state drives (SSDs) to network-attached storage (NAS) devices. These devices are used to set up centralized storage for the entire organization.
- Network Equipment: This includes routers, switches, and hardware firewalls, which regulate network traffic and enable secure device connectivity. As you can guess, these devices ensure connectivity across the organization.
- Environment Maintenance Systems: As mentioned earlier, these components include air conditioning and specialized dust filtration units that aid in regulating the server room’s temperature and humidity.
- Backup Power Supply: This is a critical component of server room setup because of its role in ensuring operational continuity. Generally, backup power options include backup generators and Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS).
- Cabling and Connectivity Equipment: This comprises the cables, connectors, and patch panels that are used to connect equipment in the server room and to the organizational-level network.
- Physical Security Equipment: This equipment includes security cameras, access restrictions, and other methods intended to prevent unauthorized/ illegal entry to the server room.
As mentioned earlier, the equipment in a server room might vary based on the company’s demands, the network’s scale, and the technology used across the organization.
The “Anatomy” of a Server Room
While a server room is an essential component of ICT operations, server rooms have no rigid design requirements. As such, an organization has a lot of room in how they set up and manage their server room.
Despite this latitude, there are some basic requirements of high-functioning server room design.
Flexibility in Design
A server room’s design and layout must be in line with the organization’s current and future expectations. The design should be able to accommodate the current equipment and have room for expansion, and the ICT infrastructure grows.
In addition, the design should consider the evolution in technology. As equipment size shrinks, the organization would need to make changes in how the server room is set up and operated.
A server room’s principal function is to offer a safe, climate-controlled environment for servers and other important IT hardware. This environment is meant to protect important ICT and networking components from damage caused by temperature variations, humidity, dust, and other conditions.
For instance, a server room requires an uninterrupted power supply for continued support. For this, server rooms generally have UPS and backup generators that kick in to guarantee that the servers stay operational even during a power loss.
Similarly, a typical server room has strong security mechanisms to protect the infrastructure and data. This security is implemented as a combination of physical security measures, such as restricted access and security cameras, as well as digital security measures, including firewalls and intrusion detection systems.
The good thing about server room design is that organizations can upgrade or swap out all security and maintenance measures for better options. This flexibility lies at the heart of successful ICT operations of any organization.
The Importance of Redundancy in Server Room
The deployment of redundant systems is of vital importance in server room operations.
Equipment failure due to hardware or software related reasons is a common enough occurrence that can bring down the networking and computing operations for the entire organization.
This is why redundancy becomes essential to server room operations.
When there is redundancy, there is more than one of everything, including servers, power supplies, and network connections. This redundancy ensures that when a subsystem fails, the redundant component takes over. This reduces (or even eliminates) downtime and ensures that data is not lost in case of a malfunction.
Setting up redundancy adds to the initial setup and ongoing maintenance costs of the server room. However, these costs often pay huge dividends when a networking or power component fails.
Server Rooms Require Maintenance
Efficient server room operations are the outcome of ongoing maintenance and
monitoring of equipment and processes.
Routine maintenance (such as cleaning servers and changing parts as needed), helps extend equipment’s life span and avoid downtime. In addition, monitoring servers and other infrastructure components for issues such as overheating or power fluctuations is
critical in spotting problems early and preventing them from snowballing into show-stopping disasters.
Organizations have the choice of setting up in-house server room teams to take care of operations and maintenance or outsourcing maintenance to a trusted third party.
In-house Server Rooms vs. Third Party Server Infrastructure
Businesses have the option of setting up on-premises server rooms or opting for third-party server hosting.
Both options have their own advantages and disadvantages, and the choice between them depends on various factors, such as cost, security, reliability, and scalability.
One of the main advantages of an in-house server room is that the company has full control over the servers and can customize them to meet specific needs. In addition, the company has complete access to the server room and can monitor it closely, ensuring high levels of security and uptime.
However, an in-house server room requires significant upfront investment and ongoing maintenance costs, and it may not be scalable enough to accommodate future growth.
On the other hand, a third-party server setup offers numerous benefits, such as lower upfront costs, better scalability, and reduced maintenance overhead. In addition, third-party providers have dedicated teams of experts who specialize in managing servers and ensuring maximum uptime, which can result in better performance and reliability.
However, companies using third-party providers must trust them with their sensitive data and may not have as much control over the servers as they would with an in-house setup.
For many SMBs and enterprises, opting for third-party server infrastructure is a better investment because of cost savings and ease of infrastructure flexibility and scalability. In addition, many third-party bare metal server providers offer round-the-clock server management and support.
A server room is essential for any organization that relies on technology to function. It offers a secure, climate-controlled environment for servers and other vital IT equipment, and it must be developed and maintained to meet technological advancements while safeguarding sensitive data. A server room, with proper planning and administration, can guarantee the seamless running of an organization’s IT infrastructure.